A Double Stitched Issue

The following post has already been featured on my first blog “I Am A Fashion Business Major, And No, I Will Not Make You A Dress.”  However, because I still feel very passionate about the content of this post, I am taking it upon myself to post it again, this time on my current blog.  Some modifications have been made to fit my current blogging style, and the original post was from April 2015, my junior year of college.  Please enjoy!

A couple of interesting events occurred over the past week or so that led me to put aside my school work to work on this particular blog post.  First of all, I must start by saying that as a fashion business major, I thoroughly enjoy the field of work that I’m researching and the classes at my school.  I cannot get enough of the information; true, it’s overwhelming, but every second I am soaking up new classroom knowledge is worth it at Columbia.  However, I could not help but note the events over the past week.

It began two Tuesdays ago, when I woke at 8am and eventually made my way over to my 9am Visual Merchandising class.  After some discussion about our final project, the teacher turned on a news special (I believe it was a more recent one) that talked about the accomplishments of fashion business extraordinaire Mickey Drexler, the CEO of JCrew.  This, for point of reference, is Mickey Drexler:

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The special raved about how he quickly jumped into the business after he finished school, and then proceeded to talk about his positions at Ann Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s.  He only became more notable when he was the CEO of Gap because he was the one who was responsible for the company’s accelerated rise into the fashion world back in the 90s.  For instance, do any of you know the television ad that aired during that time that exemplified the decade’s obsession with khaki?

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Yep, it was the one and only Mickey Drexler who was responsible for that ad!  The news special almost portrayed him as the protagonist in some sort of fairy tale… using his bravely equipped skills as a visual artist and a sleek and noble business man, the charming Mickey Drexler saved the mistress Gap from almost fashion fatality, and brought the name of good American people into the brand, which pretty much secured Gap’s seat on the retailer throne, and the company lived happily ever after (that is, not entirely for Drexler since he was let go during one season, but he is still fine now because he is currently the CEO of JCrew and the company practically worships the ground he walks on).
Overall, I found the news special fascinating, but a little too… cheery.  And usually, when the news gets a little too cheery in general, I get a little too suspicious.  I decided not to think about it much, and brushed the thought aside.  The thought didn’t come into my head later, until I went on Youtube a day or two ago to watch one of my favorite shows Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and I saw that he had a whole segment about the fashion industry.  Of course, I couldn’t help but watch what he had to say (you can see the segment here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdLf4fihP78).  And of course, what he had to say was brilliant.
In the segment, Oliver talked about something that I continuously learn in my fashion classes: that while discounted clothing made in other countries are great for consumers in America, they’re not that fantastic for the makers in other countries.  This is usually because the people producing our favorite jeans and T-shirts work in horrible sweatshop conditions, with little to no fire safety methods.  And was it mentioned that a majority of the factory workers were small children?  In other words, KIDS.
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As I mentioned before, this information on the fashion industry is not new at all to me, although it definitely may be news to a lot of other people.  However, the parts of information that were new to me took me off guard, and those were the specifics on Gap for the past few decades.  For one thing, Oliver pointed out that Gap was criticized during the 90s for making its clothes in labor abusive conditions in El Salvador.  And then I believe it was at 6:32 during the video that John Oliver showed a particular commercial from that time period, and guess what commercial it was?
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That’s right, the good ol’ swing dancing khaki enthusiasts.  And forgive me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the one who was responsible for that commercial the Prince Charming we mentioned earlier, Mickey Drexler?  Which meant that Mickey Drexler, the protagonist of retailers everywhere, was responsible for overlooking the conditions in which Gap’s clothes were being made?
Now to be fair, Oliver went on to talk about how Gap took measures to install “independent monitoring” in their factories and what not.  But then not to be fair, Oliver proceeded to tell how Gap continued with a series of mishaps similar to the El Salvador instance to this very day.  Now c’mon Gap.  And c’mon, news media outlets in general!  I understand that it’s important to advertise and to showcase how well a fashion/retail brand is coming along, but you can’t ignore the other facts.  That’s what the news is for.
Overall, it’s important to realize that while the fashion industry can be a beautiful thing, it can also have some ugly downsides.  And sometimes, those ugly downsides can be the same thing as portraying fashion business moguls as heroes when in reality, they have their dark sides too.  The news should really be addressing more of these issues head on, and not shoving them behind to portray companies in a light they don’t deserve (if you’re curious as to what hypocrisies I’m referring to, just watch the John Oliver segment.  You won’t regret it, trust me).
Well kids, the more you know.  Take this knowledge and apply to it what you will.
john oliver
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